City Diary

FRESH FROM going public with his decision to quit Creation Records, the company he founded 17 years ago, Alan McGee has turned up as one of the backers of a music Internet site being set up by a former head of Virgin Entertainment, Robert Devereux. The venture, Clickmusic, aims to be the number one portal for music fans. Mr McGee is in illustrious company; other backers include Julian Richer of Richer Sounds, Sir Bob Geldof, public relations guru Matthew Freud and the bearded crusader himself, Richard Branson. Groovy, baby.

THERE WAS a lot of juvenile sniggering in the City on Friday after some wag noticed that Carlton and United News & Media had not yet come up with a name for the combined group. "How about Carlton United News and Television Services?" he suggested. If you haven't got the joke, I won't labour the point.

The story reminded one of our number of one of those tales - no doubt an urban myth - about how the city fathers in Newcastle got as far as designing a logo for the new City University of Newcastle upon Tyne before someone realised that the name University of Northumbria was less likely to make them the laughing stock of the nation.

THE CORPORATE great and good gather this Wednesday evening for a round of mutual back-slapping at the Natural History Museum. Yes, it's time for the Management Today awards. The two key prizes are Britain's Most Admired Company and Chief Executive of the Year. Shortlisted for the latter are Richard Branson, Sir John Browne, Sir Geoff Mulcahy and Sir Brian Pitman.

Someone should have told the organisers that Sir Brian is not a chief executive. Or maybe someone should have told Peter Ellwood, who most of us here thought was the Lloyds TSB chief executive.

TALKING OF bank chief executives, or in this case ex-bank chief executives - Martin Taylor, late of Barclays Bank, was invited out to lunch by his erstwhile rival Derek Wanless the other week. Apparently Mr Wanless, who was one of the first casualties of Bank of Scotland's hostile bid for NatWest, was looking for some career advice. There are, of course, worse people the former NatWest chief executive could turn to; Mr Taylor is now dividing his time between Goldman Sachs, the investment bank, where he is working as a consultant, and WH Smith, of which he is chairman.

SIMON BURKE, the former Virgin manager parachuted in to rescue Hamleys, is not very happy with one or two or the builder's suggestions as to how he could improve the layout of the struggling group's flagship store on London's Regent Street.

The old building desperately needs refurbishment and improvements to "customer traffic flow", which currently involves shoppers taking about an hour at peak times to fight their way to the fifth floor.

Mr Burke contacted some so-called retail design specialists and was staggered both by the cost and idiotic nature of suggestions. "One said the only way it could be done was for the escalators to be taken out, turned around and then put back in again. I couldn't believe what I was hearing."

Mr Burke has given the job to a "little builder" he knows who used to develop Virgin's cinemas. He explains: "I knew he was good when he pointed out that the plans suggested by a rival builder would have meant that if someone had stood up in the back row the shadow of their head would have obscured the screen."

THE WEEKLY global investment strategy briefing from Dresdner Kleinwort Benson is normally an austere document, containing useful advice to guide the canny investor.

But millennium madness has begun to permeate the City, if last week's edition is anything to go by. Under the title "Failed as Father", strategist Albert Edwards describes his confusion at finding out that his 10-year- old lad, Newcome, had turned into a bull-market junkie, after find the morning newspaper open at the Nasdaq share prices page.

"Was it me?" Mr Edwards asks his loyal readers. "Did I spend too long at work? Should I have seen it coming? Or was it the little things?"

He acquits himself of the charge of failing in his paternal duties, citing recent trips to the park to practise rugby tackles. "I had the ball and was Jonah Lomu. Surely that's what modern fathers do?" he asks.

The investment strategy advice then really kicks into gear, detailing how an evening out with a bunch of quantitative analysts in a pub in south- east London led to Mr Edwards shaving off his moustache after 22 years.

And the impact on the markets? "I can't believe there is any connection between my own selfish quest for eternal youth and the fact that Newcome has turned into a Nasdaq junkie. I instead believe that his problems are all part of the current bull-market mania. Roll on normality."

Oh... by the way, just in case you're interested, DKB are overweight in bonds and cash and underweight in equities.

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